Gates Apiary Project

Gates Apiary Project - Bee

We have been working on our own apiary, or beehives project, in order to help support these invaluable pollinating insects and the crucial role they play in our ecosystem. In time, we hope to produce a small amount of Gates Honey, made by our own bees, using pollen from flowers right here in the garden centre. Read on to discover why this exciting project is so important, and the story that led to our plans coming together.

Why do we need bees?

More than 75% of global crops benefit from animal pollination in production, yield and quality, and globally nearly 90% of wild flowering plant species depend on animal pollination.

Flowering plants need pollinators such as bees to transfer pollen for successful reproduction and these plants are critical in the functioning of ecosystems. They provide food, form habitats, and play a key role in supporting food production, habitats, and natural resources.

But us humans are a threat to pollinators โ€“ their abundance, diversity and health. In recent decades, climate change has altered the activities of some wild pollinator species and humans have altered the natural landscape and changed land use, reducing the pollinator’s habitat. At the same time environmental pollution has reduced pollinator’s food and nesting resources.

Over the last five decades, the volume of pollinator-dependent crops including fruit and vegetables, has increased threefold, so we’re now more dependent on pollination than ever before.

Introducing Bees to Gates

At Gates we’re passionate about our local environment and Gates Farming manages a continuous programme of environmental improvement, planting over 80,000 indigenous trees on our land and creating over 15km of native hedgerows, providing vital habitats for mammals, birds, and insects.

Ground source heat pumps provide 50% of our year-round heating. A massive 110 kVA solar panel system is fitted to our south-facing rooftops, supplying electricity for our ground source heating system and air conditioning units. The 4km of underground pipework provides over 50% of our year-round heating.

Rainwater from our rooftops is harvested into a huge underground storage tank, for re-use watering in our plant nursery and on our farm. Surface water drainage is also collected into three large balancing ponds, thereby creating a 5-acre wetland environment supporting many species of wildlife.

It therefore makes lots of sense to further improve our impact on this land by introducing an apiary, and so an approach was made to the Leicestershire & Rutland Bee Keeping Association, to find a beekeeper with an established apiary they wished to move.

As luck would have it, we were approached by an experienced beekeeper based in Leicester who had has 20 hives and was looking to relocate the hives from their current location, a small back yard and a friend’s field which lacked flowering plants for pollination.

Gates Apiary Project - woodland ready for apiary

We agreed that the woodland copse next to the pond field, facing the restaurant terrace, is an ideal location for hives:

  • The hedging and trees provide shelter from the wind.
  • The lakes provide water.
  • The outdoor plant area of the Garden Centre is close by and features a range of flowering plants.

Success!

On the 7th May 2024, late at night whilst the bees slept, a Gates vehicle travelled carefully across Leicestershire with its precious cargo and the hives were re-located into their new home amongst the trees.

Gates Apiary Project Hives in location 2
Gates Apiary Project Hives in location 1
Gates Apiary Project -hive with bees

What next…

The aim is to cultivate and care for the bees who will increase in number, growing the number of hives ultimately to 40. When conditions allow, weโ€™ll harvest the honey to be sold in Gates Farm Shop under Gates exclusive branding. The volume of honey produced is, yet, unknown as it is dependent upon the weather conditions and the beesโ€™ ability to collect pollen. The flavour of the honey is dependent upon the blossom found locally, the bees wonโ€™t be fed sugar water, as this makes the honey over sweet – an attribute of cheaper commercial honey. The Gates honey will have a unique flavour reflecting this location.

Gates Apiary Project - Leicestershire and Rutland Beekeepers Association logo

Want to learn moreโ€ฆ

We are very excited about the Gates Apiary Project and are looking forward to the next chapter in the story. If you are considering keeping bees yourself, or are enchanted by these wonderful creatures and want to learn more about them, then our informal 90-minute session; featuring a talk from and Q&A with Mike Petty, Trustee of the LRBKA; is the perfect introduction to this fascinating topic.

Join us and the Leicestershire & Rutland Beekeepers Association and Learn about Bee Keeping on Saturday 22nd June. We have two workshops available, starting at 10:30am and 2pm.

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